Mike’s first dance
Special to The Union
Experiences that exceed expectations make life memorable. I’m in the middle-school memory business.
Mike, a demure yet excitable sixth-grader, waved his fluorescent pink wristband and ran toward me. “Mr. P., I’m going to the dance. Are you?”
“The accordion player’s stuffed monkey doesn’t impress me anymore.”
Mike’s contorted face told me I’d struck memory-making pay dirt.
“Yea, the old folks fired the D.J. a few years back — too loud.”
“Old folks — what old folks?”
“The old people from the senior center that chaperone the dances. They prefer polkas and square dancing.”
“What’s polka-dot dancing?” Mike asked.
“Old folks use canes to put polka dot stickers on the cafeteria floor that match the number on your wristband. You put one foot on your numbered dot and dance.”
“Can you break dance?”
“No. That’s why I quit going. Besides if your foot leaves the dot, old folks throw you out.”
“Can you free-style dance?”
“No — dancing costs $5.”
“Snacks?” Mike fingered his wristband.
“If you like Goobers,” I wrinkled my nose.
“What’s a Goober?”
“Peanuts in a shell. Old folks like Goobers and water.”
“Water! Do they have Cokes and stuff?”
“No. Everyone gets one cup of water and all the Goobers they can hold.”
“I shouldn’t have paid $5.” Mike tugged at his wristband.
“You’re young — you didn’t know. I paid Mr. Smith $10 to take my dance supervision duty.”
“Bummer. They should tell kids what it’s like in there.” Mike pointed toward the cafeteria.
“Who would buy a ticket? The school makes $1,000 because the accordion player donates his time and throws in the monkey for free.”
“This is disappointing.”
“Life’s like that Mike. One minute you’re on top of the world with a florescent wristband — the next minute you’re stuck on a polka-dot listening to an accordion player in a crowd of old people.”
“Why do you have to keep your foot on the dot?”
“Walkers. Old people use walkers. Last year a 90-year-old lady got knocked over and broke her hip. That’s why break dancing is against school rules.”
A group of older kids in front of us doused themselves with cologne. I eyeballed Mike, “Did you bring any cologne?”
“No — won’t make a difference.”
“Oh, you’re wrong there. You ever smell old people? Those kids are counter-acting the old people smell factor.”
“True, my grandpa smells weird.”
“Polka-dot dancing and Goobers give oldsters that odor,” I said.
“Can I get a refund?” He tugged at the pink band.
“Nope sales are final.”
“This is crazy.”
“It was fun when the monkey was alive.” I looked indifferent.
“What happened to the monkey?”
“We don’t know. The lights went out and there was screaming. When the power came on, the monkey was dead — probably heart attack.”
“The lights went out?”
“Polka-dot dancing is a daylight endeavor.”
“This is crazy.”
“At least you won’t have to worry about girls or monkeys.”
“The rope — of course.”
“Old folks stretch a rope across the cafeteria. Girls dot dance on one side, boys the other.”
Mike was primed for a memorable experience. The DJ’s van was parked behind the cafeteria out of view. The laser light show would take another 20 minutes to set-up.
“At least you have a stuffed monkey for entertainment. Eat your Goobers slow. Seniors don’t offer seconds.”
“I heard middle school was terrible — but I had no idea.”
“Get used to it kid — things get worse and more expensive.”
The bell rang. Mike walked toward the cafeteria to line up; others ran.
Memories are sweeter when they exceed expectations. I’m in the memory business.
Ty Pelfrey is a Nevada County resident and teacher. Contact Ty at email@example.com and facebook.
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